Principles for a Productive Dialogue

Consider the following before you reach out to any parent/teacher/administrator/community member with a question, concern or suggestion:  

  1. Credibility of Information.  Ask yourself...
  1. Where did I get this information?  Facebook? Online source?  Friend?  Educator?  Is it based on someone saying they “heard” it? Is it opinion or fact? How reliable is the information/source?
  2. What is the perspective, narrative or possible motivation for the source of the information?  
  3. Is there an emotional component to the topic?
  4. How confident am I in the validity of the information concerning the topic?  
  5. Am I making assumptions about a topic that require more information?
  6. Do I have a solid set of concrete facts or possibly just partial information?
  7. Did I correct or question the person/source who passed along inaccurate information?
  1. Formulate a question based on understanding the topic more fully.
  1. Is there additional information or facts that I need in order to verify this information or to fully understand this topic or problem?
  2. What additional information do I need in order to more fully understand this topic or problem?
  1. Source and Accuracy
  1. Where should this conversation begin?  Which person is most closely connected to the issue or topic I want to explore?  
  2. Am I talking to the right person?
  1. Method of Communication
  1. Am I communicating in the right forum given the particulars of the topic?  What is the most effective method to address my question?  Does my question require straightforward facts/details/dates, or is it more nuanced?  
  2. What is the best platform to communicate my understanding of the topic (email, phone call, face-to-face meeting, etc.)?
  1. Establish a clear goal or objective for the dialogue or meeting (in email or face-to-face).
  1. The purpose of this email/meeting is to __________.
  2. By the end of this meeting, we will have a better understanding of __________.
  3. What would make this meeting a productive or successful one?
  1. In a face-to-face meetings or phone conversations, be mindful of the basic rules of active listening and productive communication.
  1. Restate the purpose or goal of the conversation or meeting.
  2. At periodic points in the discussion, re-express the other person’s main point, position, logic, critical facts, etc.  
  1. “I heard you say _______.”
  2. “From what I heard you say, the main take-away is ________.”
  1. Allow the other person to (re)clarify their position/facts/main ideas if they feel you missed the point.
  2. Periodically, list points of agreement, reiterate the goal of the conversation or what you have learned (so far).
  3. State what you have learned from the person with whom you are talking.
  4. Accordingly, given the goals of the conversation/meeting -- What concrete action would you like to be taken?
  5. Ask the other person to re-express “what they heard you say” (see b).
  6. Identify and agree with the next steps to be taken.  
  7. At all times, listen to understand and not merely to respond.  Discussions are not debates or arguments won by a point system, but they are a method to communicate so a problem can be resolved in order for students to be successful.
  8. Avoid at all times -- sarcasm, derision, threats, ultimatums, or any other aggressive language that diminishes trust.
  9.  At all times -- communicate to enhance trust.